Tweens and the City...
March 5, 2011 6:24 AM   Subscribe

[NYC Visit Filter]Recommendations for a 3-day NYC visit with an 11-year-old girl and a 9-year-old girl (besides the usual).

They've both done the stock touristy things (Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building midtown Manhattan stores, etc.). Not sure if they're ready for(or have the attention span) for a MOMA visit or any art museum.

They'll be staying in Manhattan and are with an adult who is probably not ready to navigate the subway system.
posted by kuanes to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (25 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I did my 13th birthday in Manhattan. The thing I loved most was Central Park and getting a) a hot dog from a cart and b) my portrait done by a random artist. I know we did other stuff, but that's what I remember most.

Have they wandered through any of the expensive hotel lobbies yet? That was great, too.

And if I was dragging a kid to NYC we'd do the Tenement Museum. Partly because my grandpa grew up a few buildings down from it, but also because they have what looks like a lot of stuff for that exact age range.
posted by SMPA at 6:40 AM on March 5, 2011

The subway system really isn't all that hard to deal with, and unless someone in the group has trouble with stairs, it is a much easier and faster way to get around the city than just about anything else (unless you have jet packs, which would be incredibly cool). And, come to think of it, maybe planning the subway part of the trip can be done by the kids. I seem to remember really getting a kick out of being in charge of transportation at that age. The MTA website has lots of helpful features including a trip planner. It was recently revised to make it easier to get information from. I think they have at least partially succeeded.

The Bronx Zoo is a good kid place to go, but you should choose a time when it is less crowded so you and the kids can enjoy it more.

When is this visit? Now? Soon? The weather is so variable right now that it would help to know if you're visiting during fun outside time or not.
posted by sciencegeek at 6:44 AM on March 5, 2011

Response by poster: @sciencegeek - Probably in mid to late April
posted by kuanes at 6:55 AM on March 5, 2011

The Cloisters

The Central Park Zoo

The international Childrens' film festival has just started

Taking the ferry to staten island

Museum of natural history is awesome for kids, especially the elephant's hall. Could also try the children's museum.
posted by zia at 6:56 AM on March 5, 2011

If you're willing to dip a little into Brooklyn, the Transit Museum is fantastic and very inexpensive. The museum itself is built into an old subway station near Brooklyn's Borough Hall, features a really great exhibit detailing the history and construction of the subway system, and downstairs at "track level" are over a dozen old subway cars from different eras, kept in lovely condition and featuring period system maps and advertising.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:08 AM on March 5, 2011

Definitely The Tenement Museum. I have taken kids there, and they loved it.

This tour: Confino Family

Meet Victoria Confino, a teen-age, Greek Sephardic immigrant played by a costumed interpreter. Set during 1916. Perfect for families.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:18 AM on March 5, 2011

(BTW, if you do go to the Tenement museum, schedule a tour for a specific time, in advance.)
posted by R. Mutt at 7:30 AM on March 5, 2011

If physically maneuvering around the subway isn't the problem, but knowing directions is, would help. The kids could even make it a project.

If it's a nice day, getting some ice cream at Chelsea Market and then going to the the High Line is fun.
posted by wiskunde at 7:32 AM on March 5, 2011

The subways are a part of any true NYC experience. If you're here on a weekday, they're not that difficult to navigate. (The weekends can be a little trickier with track work, but not impossible.) Being able to hop on the train will really open up some options for you. If you look lost, I guarantee that New Yorkers will ask you if you need help and point you in the right direction.

I'd second the Tenement Museum and the Transit Museum. One of the best museums for kids is in Astoria, Queens - Museum of the Moving Image. It has the best interactives of any non-science museum in the city. Yes, it's in Queens, but it's very easily accessible by the "R" train, just two stops into Queens, about 10 mins from the east side of Manhattan. I used to work there, and I really recommend it for kids that age.

Have you gone to a Broadway show? Gotten up early to do the the Today show crowd at Rockefeller Center? How about lunch from one of the many food trucks that have become really popular in Manhattan?

Another suggestion would be to check out TimeOut New York Kids. It's all listings of things to do with kids in the city and will have great specifics for you.
posted by pourtant at 7:37 AM on March 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

FAO Schwartz.

When are you going to be here? Where are you staying?

The subway system is easy. You can always ask someone if you need directions.
posted by John Cohen at 7:48 AM on March 5, 2011

My 12- and 9-year-old nieces were just here for a visit. They loved the Statue of Liberty but you've already done that. They liked Federal Hall on Wall St. even more. While there they took the park service's quiz/scavenger hunt. After successfully completing the quiz they were sworn in as junior rangers and given badges. I'm told they are still talking about it a week later. All the National Park Service sites have a quiz tailored to their location.

It's not a long walk from Federal Hall to Chinatown. My nieces really enjoyed the exotic (to them) shops and restaurants.

M&M World in Times Square was a big hit for them (not so much for me).

I also highly recommend the Tenement Museum, the Transit Museum and the American Museum of Natural History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is big enough, and you can pay what you want, that they are bound to find something within that interests them.

Though my nieces liked the Central Park Zoo they both said it was very small.
posted by plastic_animals at 7:48 AM on March 5, 2011

Speaking of ice cream.... there is The Chinatown Ice Cream Factory!
At 65 Bayard Street Manhattan Chinatown.

Regular flavors:

Almond Cookie
Chocolate Pandan
Green Tea
Red Bean
Black Sesame
Strawberry Shortcake
Cherry Pistachio
Egg Custard
Chocolate Carmel Pecan
Peanut Butter and Jelly
Zen Butter

Exotic Flavors:

Oreo Cookie
Rum Raisin
Chocolate Chip
Blueberry Cheesecake
Coconut Fudge
Strawberry Cheesecake
Butter Pecan
Cherry Pistachio
Coffee Brandy
Pumpkin Pie
Vanilla Fudge
Cherry Vanilla
Mint Chip
Rocky Road
Chips and Chocolate
posted by R. Mutt at 7:48 AM on March 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Serendipity 3 for Frozen Hot Chocolate. Make sure to make a reservation.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:21 AM on March 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Dinner at Joe Shanghai in Chinatown, and then walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Daniel Radcliffe (who plays Harry Potter) is currently the lead in a very good production of "How to Succeed in Business without really trying" on Broadway.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:04 AM on March 5, 2011

When I was that age(s) I loved Serendipity, as Ad hominem suggests. If one of them is a "shopper" and they have a small amount of money to spend, Pearl River Mart on Broadway near Canal is good fun for lots of doodads at very cheap prices.
posted by Ollie at 9:05 AM on March 5, 2011

Tea & Sympathy!! (or Alices Teacup... But I think t&s would be better and perceived as less babyish by the 13yo) you can have tea and scones and British food! I've gone several times and seen people of all ages there. The decor is super kawaii! A Salt & Battery is next door and they sell fish and chips if youre looking for something casual and cheaper. Flight 01 and Mxyplztk are cool stores to window shop in and theyre right across the street from T&S.

Also go to Soho and check out all the stores on Broadway. Spring St is right there and you can try Pinkberry (delish froyo) after you get yummy pizza at Lombardis across the street.
posted by lovelygirl at 9:29 AM on March 5, 2011

*11 yo

Also if you go to Chinatown be sure to get the little mall on Elizabeth St. Lots of cute trinkets and Sanrio items if they like that sort of thing. And bubble tea at TenRen is a must!
posted by lovelygirl at 9:35 AM on March 5, 2011

Seconding the Transit Museum, Tenement Museum, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. The Sony building in Midtown has a really cool interactive, kids-oriented Technology Lab that is appealing to grown-ups as well. Lots of neat effects and tricks. It's also free!

Also, the subway is actually pretty fun for kids who've never been on it. It is also way, way easier in the long run than dealing with cabs all day. Traffic in NYC is no fun, especially when you're trying to go crosstown and the cab goes stop. start. stop. startstop. Relying on cabs will get you two carsick, grumpy children and an adult with far less money to spend on fun activities. So unless the adult in question is handicap or otherwise incapacitated to handling stairs, it's really in their best interest to just buck up and go underground. Taxi cabs are for drunk people who don't want to wait for a train at 3AM (me), but not for safe, cheap, efficient daytime traveling.
posted by Viola at 10:15 AM on March 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also (sorry to keep harping on this cab vs. subway business) but I think it's important to show children that there are alternatives to traveling in cars. Many children who grow up in the suburbs simply accept that driving is the only possibility, and riding the subway can be an educational, broadening experience.
posted by Viola at 10:18 AM on March 5, 2011

Thirding Serendipity 3.

Take the tram to Roosevelt Island, for great views of Manhattan.
posted by ambrosia at 11:17 AM on March 5, 2011

If full-price tickets to a Broadway show is in your budget, Wicked is perfect for girls that age. And live theater is really a memorable experience.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 12:42 PM on March 5, 2011

I loved going to the Museum of Natural History at that age. The dioramas are all extremely impressive.

And don't worry about using the subway. It's really the only way to get around. Midtown it's all really simple. Just study the map, and make sure you know where you need to get off. Google maps give great subway directions. It's a lot simpler than it seems, and don't be afraid of asking people for help. New Yorkers love to show off their subway prowess.
posted by catwash at 1:11 PM on March 5, 2011

That's a great age for the American Girl Doll store (though it's insanely expensive). They do a live show and a tea where you can bring your doll along (reservations are required).

The Natural History Museum is another don't miss, even if they've been there before. There's a shop around the corner called Maxilla and Mandible that sells fossils and insects and all sorts of amazing natural goodies.

The NBC tour at 30 Rock is a lot of fun, and not boring for adults (a plus in this sort of thing)

I also totally recommend Sony Wonder (Madison and 55th in the Sony building) - it's an interactive electronics playspace (and it's free!) - vaguely scientific in nature, but along the lines of 'design a video game' and 'be a sound engineer'

The Museum of Television and Radio
isn't really a museum, it's more a place where you can watch almost any tv show ever - maybe not your first choice for activities, but more educational than having them veg out in the hotel room, if they're anything like our tweens.

For shows, if you haven't done Blue Man Group yet, it's very worth it. I also think they're not too old to enjoy the Gazillion Bubble Show, if it's still playing.

For dessert, you want to visit Max Brenner (Chocolate from the Bald Man) and Dylan's Candy Bar. Someone already mentioned the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, which is amazing. Chinatown is also great for wandering and buying fruits you've never seen before, and shopping for cool knickknacks you've never seen before.

Finally, no trip to NYC with tween or teen girls is complete without a visit to Ricky's - everything from cool tee shirts and buttons to fake tattoos and 3-inch rhinestone false eyelashes, all under one roof (parental supervision required, though, since most shops have a curtained-off "adult" section that isn't actually guarded by anyone) - great place to get screaming green hair dye or platform flip flops or other "I can't believe I'm letting them do this, but hey, it's New York" indulgences.
posted by Mchelly at 6:37 PM on March 5, 2011

Oh - also - Watson Adventures runs scavenger hunts in the city that look amazing - many different locations including museums and Grand Central Station
posted by Mchelly at 6:40 PM on March 5, 2011

I was in NYC for the first time last October, for about 3 days. If you have a subway map and are familiar with public transit in other places, the subway isn't that difficult to use and riding around on it is pretty neat. I did get lost once or twice, but if you're not worried about keeping a tight schedule it's not a big deal. The locals are more helpful than you might think, and there are usually a few other lost tourists around to figure things out with. Compared to the transit system where I live, the NYC transit system is really well thought-out and efficient. Unlike where I live, I never had to check a transit schedule, because whatever train you're taking, there always seems to be one coming within 20 minutes or so. A transit map is a must, though.

Times Square was not my favorite, but there's a cool Toys R Us there that they might like to poke around in if they haven't checked it out already. (You say they've seen midtown Manhattan so they probably have, but you never know.) There was a kids-sized ferris wheel that spanned 2 floors, a life-sized Barbie house with historical/designer Barbies on display, animatronic T-Rex, etc. And candy, lots of candy.

The Bronx Zoo was great. It's HUGE though, so you may want to plan out in advance what areas in the zoo you want to check out, unless you plan on spending at least an entire day there. I think my favorite parts were the trained seal show, the flamingoes, the horned deer (forget what they're called but they'll walk right up to the glass to say 'hi'), and the grizzly and polar bears. I wandered by the various wildcat habitats but never caught sight of one. Same for the red panda. The mouse house just made me sad but that might just be me anthropomorphizing them. The cages were small and the rodents seemed very frightened by the constant disturbance of visitors yelling/talking loudly, rapping on the glass, etc.
posted by purplecrackers at 1:09 PM on March 6, 2011

« Older Dentist visit from hell   |   What to do with six hours in Amsterdam airport? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.